ISL, I-League merger put on hold

The All India Football Federation on Sunday ruled out an immediate merger of the I-League and the Indian Super League, deciding that the former will remain the country’s top-tier tournament for the next two-three years.

Aizawl FC had threatened a fast unto death if it was to be relegated from the I-League.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

The All India Football Federation decided to maintain status quo in keeping I-League the official league of the country while proposing that the Indian Super League will continue to remain a marquee tournament in its present nature. The talks about the proposed merger of the two leagues, which had come under fire from the traditional clubs playing in the I-League, has been pushed back for the time being.

This decision was reached after the representatives of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, the two clubs with the biggest fan-base in the country, met the AIFF President Praful Patel in Mumbai on Saturday. The meeting was also attended by senior vice-president of AIFF Subrata Dutta, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das and CEO of I-League Sunanda Dhar, who heard the representation on various issues of the proposed merger.

“The meeting heard representations from the two clubs and provisionally decided to retain the present status of the two tournaments where I-League will continue to remain the official league of the country while it was decided have the ISL in an expanded duration of seven months,” an AIFF functionary said.

The merger talks had first drawn objections from the two Kolkata giants, who disagreed on certain points contained in the draft contract offered to two sides as a first step for accepting the merger. The resistance to the merger grew even louder as Aizawl FC demanded a berth in the top tier of the merged league immediately after being crowned the I-League champion. The initial discussions relating to the merger only considered the fancied teams from I-League like Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to be included in the top heap of the unified league. Aizawl’s reaction came on the speculation of its exclusion from the new entity.

“As a next step AIFF will discuss these proposals with its marketing rights holder IMG-Reliance and decide on the future road map. This also brings up the question on which teams will avail the two continental berths reserved for the champion clubs of the country. The AIFF president will be taking this issue with Asian Football Confederation during its congress in Bahrain happening next week,” it was revealed.

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